“Ty, what’s wrong?”
When I think about dealing with my mental health during childhood, the first thing I think about is the day I was lying on the couch at a very young age crying. My mom asked me what was wrong in this confused, concerned, but yet with a tired voice. “I don’t know,” I replied to my mother. The truth was I didn’t know what was wrong. Honestly, I was confused because I knew I was sad, but I didn’t understand why. I couldn’t stop crying or be happy. It was one of many episodes that I had throughout my life and it has been a battle as long as I can remember. I received my first diagnosis of clinical depression.
In elementary school, I had my first of many encounters with a psychologist and psychiatrist after seeing my school counselor. I was prescribed medication to help with the symptoms of depression. However, I was in denial and refusing the treatment.
I grew up wanting to be what society viewed as being “normal.” I hide my mental health challenges to act “normal” and fit in. I wished I was “normal,” prayed to God, and questioned why I was different. I reminded myself that God loves me anyway.
I had my first suicide attempt when I was a freshman in high school. This attempt involved taking pills. My mom walked into my room after being told by a friend’s grandmother. I told my friend I was suicidal. After this attempt, I received a second diagnosis of major depressive disorder, along with an anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder.
In my early 20’s, I was referred to a community mental health facility after a night of being in crisis. Depression, anxiety, community mental health facilities, mobile crisis units, doctors, emergency rooms, suicidal ideations, and thoughts were a part of my life from then on. However, I was still in denial and refusing treatment. And then, something changed my outlook and view on my situation.
When I looked up and saw my daughter standing outside the kitchen, looking at me with tears rolling down her face with a scared and confused look, I knew it was time. It was time to surrender. It was time to get help. It was time to accept that something was wrong. I grabbed the water that I planned to wash down the pills to end my life. I asked God for strength, and he sent my children --- literally. After looking at my strength (my daughter) right in the face, I knew I couldn’t go through with it. The haunting and disturbing image of my baby having to witness me in crisis was on my mind as I kept telling myself, “this is for my babies.” I knew I had to do it for them if for no one else.
I decided that I wanted to take a psychological test to get an accurate diagnosis so I could receive the proper treatment. After the test, I received a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, depressive type, a chronic mental disorder characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania and depression. I was given an antidepressant and an antipsychotic; the antidepressant alleviates the symptoms of major depressive disorder. The antipsychotic helps with the symptoms of psychosis. These symptoms have been delusions, obsessive thinking, paranoia, mood swings, and more while I was untreated. I also started attending dialectical behavior therapy and successfully completed it.
Today, I THRIVE with the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, depressive type by taking my medication as prescribed, attending therapy, and regular exercise. I also do my best to eat well-balanced meals, write, read, and enjoy spending time with family and friends and continuing to following in the path that God has for me. I am THRIVING as a wife, mother of five, student, author, and mental health advocate.
Sometimes we go through painful experiences, but it may be that very thing that separates us from everyone else. It is the thing that God will use to help us grow, reach success, and help others be free. I did not just grow through that concrete --- my mental health challenges that was weighing me down. I did a "glow-up," and I am GLOWING through the concrete. I now realize that I am not society’s “normal,” and that’s okay.
Schizoaffective disorder doesn’t have me; I have it!